Stoned Teachers Get a Special Surprise

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That’s right. Our teachers will be stoned and I hope to be able to share with our office staff too.

Freedom woman with opened arms outdoors smiling

Oh…did you think I meant THAT kind of stoned?!  Goodness, No!  I may work in a part of the country that has legalized that sort of thing, but I would never expect a teacher to start the day at work that way. I’m talking about stoning my colleagues on our first day back to work.  I hope that they will enjoy the event, and I want to start the day off with just the right stones.  I looked for the bigger ones, because the little ones just wouldn’t have the same impact. I found a great bunch in two colors and I brought them home in an abundance to make the stoning happen.  It took several hours to prepare, but I think it will set the tone for our year in a solid way.

What? “Don’t cast stones” you say?  You think I meant to harm my colleagues?  Oh my.  Let me start again.

I am gifting my colleagues with stones; stones with words, thoughts, and phrases of positivity.   I want us to start the year with good thoughts and affirmations, but I didn’t want to just say it or give a note.  I am hoping that these stones, that they will take with them at the end of the day, will remind each person throughout the year of the good ideas we started with. Yet, I know that what some might think is affirming might be meaningless to another.  So, I’ve designed nearly 100 individual stones so that each person may select the encouraging idea that they need.

stones

Teaching is hard work and we often get muddled in frustration, exhaustion, and irritation. When we let those emotions get the best of us, we might take it out on others and that can make for very unpleasant relationships.  These emotions can also bring us down like a stone around our neck.  As an instructional coach, I hope to provide support that may stave off some of those emotions, to provide a confidential, listening ear to the emotions that fill our hearts, or an elevating word that will lift others up.

My plan is to lay the stones around each table’s supply bin so they are a part of the décor. At some point in the professional development session, I’ll instruct each person to select one stone that “speaks” to them.  After they’ve made their selection, I’ll invite them to tell the other people at their table why they selected that particular stone.  This will be a nice way to share a bit about ourselves, rekindle connections, and learn about our newest staff members.  I know that many people don’t like ice-breakers, but I hope that this will be a gentle way to build on positivity and connect with each other.  At the end of the day, each person may take their stone with them; walking away “stoned”.  I hope that whenever they see it they will be reminded of what it means to them and that they will not dodge the positive affirmation that goes along with it.

If you’d like to “stone” your staff, keep reading and I’ll share the steps I took to create them.

Materials:

  • “Glass Gems” or clear glass stone
  • Mod Podge or strong adhesive
  • Paper
  • Scissors
  • Permanent fine tip marker or a computer program like Power Point or Photoshop
  • Magnets (strips or circles)
  1. Buy bags of “Glass Gems” or clear glass stones. I selected the larger stones that were one inch in diameter. You’ll want to measure them before you start designing. I found mine at our local Dollar Tree. There were about 36 in each bag. I selected a clear set and a set of blue gems.stones in bag
  2. On your computer, open up an electronic imaging/text program that you prefer. I used Power Point because I prefer the ease of manipulation of clipart and text.  You might like Photoshop or some other.
  3. Create a number of circles that measure up to the size of your stones. In PowerPoint you can use the measurements to the side and top to determine the accurate size. You can also hand draw the circles on paper if you need.   PwrPt circles
  4. In your program, insert text with the words or clip art that you’d like to include. If you are making them by hand, you can write the text or draw images within the circles. I selected various fonts and clip art so that there would be lots of uniqueness.
  5. Print your page if using technology. (Skip this step if you are making them by hand.)
  6. Cut out your circles. circles
  7. Select an adhesive medium that will dry clear. I used Mod Podge. Use a paintbrush to paint on some glue to the complete flat portion of your glass stone.glueing
  8. Place a circle, image/text down, onto the flat, glued side of the stone.holding stone back
  9. Let it dry.let dry
  10. Paint more adhesive around and over the edge of the paper so that the edges will not pull up later.glueing close
  11. Let it dry again.
  12. If you want the stones to be magnets, you can glue or adhere magnets to the flat portion of the stone after the original gluing has dried. I used magnet strips with adhesive backing. I cut the strips into smaller sections so that they could fit on the back or flat side of the stone without being seen from the front. I wanted circular magnets, but they were a bit out of my budget.Stones w.magnets
  13. Wipe off any glue smudges or fingerprints. Be careful that you don’t moisten any glued edges that may be water soluble.
  14. Gift to those that you’d like to inspire.in the bucket

HAPPY STONING!

For Educators, It’s Literally a Nightmare

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Well, Ladies and Gents, it’s about that time of year again. It’s the weeks just before students go back to school.  For families; it is a busy time of hitting the mall and finding great deals.  For educators; it’s a nightmare.  No. Literally… A nightmare.

Is this real?

Is this real?

I have found that many teachers experience a sense of anxiety about the beginning of the school year and it often exhibits through dreams. After many years of back-to-school conversations with my colleagues I have found that these dreams have one of a few common themes: embarrassment, lack of control, or a nuisance.  The setting for the dreams is in the school; whether that is the office, the playground, or the classroom, it is still a part of the school.  The characters are generally the educator and students/colleagues.  The problem is (select any of the following):

  • Arriving to school not fully clothed,
  • Arriving late on the first day of school,
  • Having a group of students that are out of control,
  • Trying to teach without any supplies,
  • Coming to school and finding that your grade or classroom has been changed without your notification,
  • Having a dreadful administrator or colleague or student return and you have to work with them,
  • Losing your voice on the first day of school,
  • …and a myriad of other stressful situations.

The educator can try desperately to fix the problem and yet that only exacerbates things or causes more problems. There is usually only one way to fix the problem and that is…to wake up.

Now there are a few that avoid this exhibition of anxiety. However, the method in itself is a demonstration of anxiety.  That would be…insomnia.  You know you’ve got to sleep, but you can’t sleep, so then you get more anxious about not sleeping which then makes it even harder to get to sleep.  It’s a vicious cycle.

I hear professionals say that the only true way to get over the anxieties is to face the very thing that is causing the unease. For educators, that comes by experiencing the first day of school.  Since that day is set in time by the district or college, we simply must endure and decide whether to sleep or not.  So, bring on the first day already!  I’m ready to get some good sleep.

Every Other Year My Class is Crazy

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Two boys misbehaving in elementary school classroom

Do kids come to school with better behavior every other year?

Seems like a silly question, right? But it was one that I actually asked myself at one time. After several years of teaching, it seemed like every other year I had a great batch of students that made the year pleasant; while the alternate years provided a group of kids that drove me crazy due to their difficult behaviors in my class.  On the good years, the kids were generally self-managers, independent, responsible and easy to teach.  Now that’s not to say that there weren’t days or moments when someone got into a lot of trouble, but for the most part our days were filled with great learning and respect.  The years with the difficult groups were stressful, hectic, challenging, and just annoying.

Early on in my career I realized that my classroom management classes from college were NOT enough. I needed to learn more.  I took more classroom management courses, read books on the subject, and learned from colleagues various strategies that are proven to provide teachers with well managed classes.  In no time, I saw a huge difference in my students’ behaviors and was even being complimented by colleagues about how well I was able to manage my class.

When I became a mom I learned even more. Having a son diagnosed with ADHD caused me to find alternative methods to help kids that “don’t fit the mold” become more successful.  In fact, it got to the point in which I welcomed those challenges into my classroom.  Then, time went on and this weird pattern of easy then challenging classes began to emerge.

I knew that I was using the same strategies and practices. I still believed in my students.  I was even at the same school so I knew that the demographics weren’t changing.  What was the variable that was causing this mysterious difference?  Is there something in the homes; something about our society?  Was is just crazy luck of the odd and even draw?  It couldn’t be me.  I was the constant.  Or could it?

Yes, you guessed it. It was me.  I discovered that the year after a challenging class, when I was preparing for the next set of students, I would tell myself that “I refuse to have another year like last year!”  So I’d deliberately teach my new students what my expectations were.  I’d train them in the classroom routines and procedures and we’d practice them over again if they weren’t being done well or if there was confusion.  I even used visual aids as reminders.

Slide6

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Behavior-Visual-Aids-787808

 https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Classroom-Behaviors-Visual-Aides-2-Primary-Grades-1354511

Opportunities for student leadership and voice were also provided. In those first couple of months, I let them know that I believed in them, that I cared about them, and with purpose, we built a community of respect. It was those years that were smooth and delightful.

One way that I helped to reinforce those things in my primary classrooms was to have the students make a booklet or bulletin board about the things we learned. I especially liked the booklet because then my students could take it home and tell their family about the routines, procedures, and opportunities for learning throughout the school day.

20160727_14235820160726_121524-1

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Classroom-Routines-and-Procedures-Booklet-Primary-Grades-767889

Then came my error. After having such a great year with a community of students that were respectful, self-managing, scholars, I slacked off.  I’d go into the next school year with a happy heart, ready to join my next set of delightful students.  The year would begin and I would teach the routines and behaviors and expect the kids to pick them up with maturity and respect.  I entered the year treating them just like the kids that I had said good-bye to only a couple of months ago.

But that’s where I missed the most important piece. They weren’t last school-year’s kids and they hadn’t had the same training that the previous set of kids had had.  It took time to build the great community that we had had the previous year.  It took building respect not just assuming it was there.

I realized, later than I wished I had, that intentionally training my students every year, with the same purpose, explanation, rigor, and accountability made the difference. My students came to me each year needing my direction and deserving the respect of proper training in routines and procedures.  It wasn’t their fault that I didn’t give them my best.  I was being no better than a tour guide who tells you that there are amazing things to see in the city, but not giving you a detailed map.  You might be able to find your way around and see some neat things, but you’d miss out on the really great cafe that only locals know about or the cool underground tunnel that was coursing beneath your feet.

Teaching and training our students about the specific expectations of our classes, and respectfully holding them accountable for engaging in those routines and procedures makes a world of difference to them and to us. So take my advice and learn from my mistakes.  Take plenty of time, and then more time, to intentionally teach your students about your classroom, your expectations, and even your building’s staff.  Don’t cut corners.  It may seem like you just don’t have the time; that you need to get into the content as soon as possible and just manage the issues as they arise.  Or it may be that you think your students don’t need such specific guidance.  You can manage issues as they arise. But in doing that; you will only make your year more stressful, hectic, challenging, and simply annoying.  You don’t have to wonder what happened.  You might just prevent some of those funny questions rising in your head too.

Go forth and lead like an amazing tour guide that not only gives you a great map, but takes you with them to the cool café.

Actual Hours Worked are NOT paid to Teachers

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There was recently a letter to teachers from a WA state government leader that was posted on Facebook.  This open letter declared that the teachers were simply whining about not getting their cost of living raise and that if they didn’t like their job they should look elsewhere.  She also touted her beliefs about teachers getting the summer off.  Boy did that stir up emotions on both sides of the coin!  I’m not going to link the article or go into more details, but I will say that Washington State voters chose to give teachers a cost of living increase, but the teachers didn’t get it due to state budget issues.  This has occurred on more than one occasion.  I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about political things, especially when it concerns education.  But I’m not posting to rant or rave about political issues here.  I just wanted to put another perspective out there.

Yesterday I was up at my school district’s main office taking care of some technology business.  After doing so, I found several colleagues in various points throughout the building.  At first, I found a few of my fellow Instructional Coaches, a Dean of Students, and many classroom teachers working on materials for the Common Core.  In two other rooms there were many teachers participating in some staff development courses.  In the Human Resources office, teachers were turning in new transcripts for classes that they recently completed.  All these encounters were evidence of the “work” that teachers do during the summer.

In addition, this wasn’t my only day in the district building this summer.  I’ve been there several times myself, and there has yet to be a day where classroom teachers were not participating in some sort of extra work.IMG_20150730_132510

As part of my job as an Instructional Coach, I have to record how many minutes I work each day doing the various parts of my job.  I track my 1:1 coaching sessions, small and whole group instruction, time working with the team, professional development for myself, reading/writing emails, and other various activities.  Our district then turns this in to the state in order to demonstrate that we are adhering to the terms of the grant that supports my role.  In 2014-15, I was contracted to work 1207.5 hours. You see, as teachers we only get paid for our contracted hours, not the actual hours we worked.  I worked 1493.5; 289 hours UNPAID.  That’s equal to a little over 7 weeks.  In 2015-16, I was contracted to work 1281 hours.  I worked 1460.5; 179.5 hours UNPAID. That’s equal to about 4 weeks. (It would have been more, but I had taken extended sick leave in order to recover from surgery.) So, technically, I already worked my summer hours…and DIDN’T get paid for them.

I know this is a heated topic in some realms of public conversation.  I know that I have worked for much less when in the private sector.  But I also know that the education of today’s children is, without argument, a most important endeavor.  We can agree to that.  Sometimes I think we get wrapped up in emotional issues and forget to find the common ground.

I thank all my colleagues for continuing to work during the summer months because I know that the work will benefit the students in our classes.  A good, growing teacher wants to do his/her best and without the extra work much can be lost.  So, we will continue to work in all seasons and keep up the good fight.  Our students are worth it.

Job Interview Tips

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Stock Traders Conducting InterviewDo your homework, don’t be afraid to brag a little, be prepared for questions about racial competency, show your confidence, and smile. That is what I would say to anyone preparing for a job interview today; especially any of those applying for the positions that schools have today. By following my advice, you’ll put yourself high up on the list of hopefuls vying for new employment.

I recently was on an interviewing committee for one of several positions in the school at which I work. We had some particular qualities, experiences, wisdom, and enthusiasm that we were looking for.  I know that there are many of you out there that are looking for a new job, so I thought I would share my behind the scenes insight.

Do Your Homework:  Take the time to learn about the place in which you might be working.  Get on-line, and/or ask colleagues what they might know about the new place.  Most schools have a web page with data and information.  You might even be able to find links to specific teacher web pages of those you might be working with closely.  If you haven’t at least looked at the school web page, you haven’t begun to do your homework.

Another part of your homework is to find the answers to the following questions: Is the school in a low-income, rural, affluent, or suburban area? About how many students does it serve?  What curriculum do they use?  How have they done on the past state tests?  What does the data say? What type of teacher evaluation system do they use?  These are just some of the questions you should answer for yourself before you walk in to the interview.  By doing so, you get a sense of how you might answer some of the questions the committee might pose to you.

Don’t be like “Ida Nough”. When asked about how she might teach a math lesson, Ida spoke about the greatness of the curriculum that her past school district used.  Unfortunately, that curriculum was dropped the year before by the interviewing school district due to its lack of lessons that met the state standards.  The fact that she was unaware of the change, and reasons for the change, lost her “points”.  Then, at the end of the interview, Ida was asked if she had any questions.  She proceeded to ask about how many kids were in the school and if a lot of teachers leave after a few years.  Ouch!   She could have talked about what she had done in the past, followed by an openness to learn more about the curriculum that would be new to her; perhaps by taking additional training.  She was not one of their top contenders.

Don’t be afraid to brag a little:  If you have earned an award, if your past students made significant gains on standardized tests due to your teaching, if you have planned/organized special events for your past schools or if there are other such important pieces to your resume; tell the interview team.  Do not assume that everyone on the interview team has had the opportunity to read your resume.  In some situations, the administrator prescreens all the candidates prior to setting up an interview.  Members of the interviewing team may not get to look at a resume until after the interview when the team has a bit more time in discussion.   So brag on yourself.  Tell them the things that you especially want them to know about.

Let me tell you about “Cheyenne Coy”.   Cheyenne knew much about the school and its demographics.  She smiled and answered the questions quietly, but thoroughly.  Just before the interview team was about to dismiss her, Cheyenne shyly brought up the fact that her previous school was a struggling one, but that her students scores on the state standardized test improved by 27%.  That is a significant jump.  This caused the team to look more closely at her skills and potential.  When they called one of her references, the team was told that her previous principal actually considered nominating her for a significant award in their district. She was one of the interviewing team’s top contenders.

Be prepared for questions about racial competency. These days, every interview that I have been a part of has asked some sort of question regarding racial competency.  Often the candidate is asked to rate themselves in regards to their racial aptitude and tell why they scored themselves that way.  Administrators are looking for understanding about how race impacts students.  You are encouraged to speak through your own personal, racial experiences, beliefs, and perspectives.  Yet understand that there are historical and contemporary issues that we should be respectful of.   Ask yourself, “To what degree am I conscious of how race impacts my life?”

So with that, how do you think “Mr. E. Quity” did in his interview? When posed with the question about his racial competency, he gave himself a score of 7.  He qualified that by stating that he had grown up in a neighborhood that was full of families of various nationalities and cultures.  There was a polish family across the street, an African American family to the right and a Hispanic family just a ways down the road. He was German.  He never thought anything about the differences, as child, until he found that the Hispanic family was being ostracized by some of the neighbors due to their culture and faith.  It didn’t sit right with him, so he decided that he would purposely become better friends with the family’s son who was about his age.  It didn’t turn out to be best friendship of his life, but he learned a lot about treating each other kindly and learning more about those that aren’t like you.  He went on to tell the interviewing team that he has since been a part of many other communities, some more culturally diverse than others.  He’d taught in schools that were in middle class white neighborhoods and in Title One schools that were filled with students of varying income and races; in fact, his last class has 10 different languages represented through his students.  He stated that race affects us personally and professionally. He felt very comfortable about talking about race and cultures, but wasn’t about to say that he knew it all.  His welcomed the opportunities to learn more.

So how do you think he did? He didn’t use the current buzz words or quote statistics that some might have been listening for.  He didn’t say that he was more privileged than others.  He didn’t even talk about how race is both positive and negative. He spoke his truth and acknowledged that he was open to learning more.  That served him well.  The committee appreciated his candor and his openness to growth.  They placed him in the running for the position.

Business woman smiling and doing a handshake in the office

Eye contact is a familiar sign of confidence.

Show your confidence:  You may feel confident, but your body language may say otherwise.  Eye contact is a familiar sign of confidence, but what if you are being interviewed by a team of people?  Give each person some eye contact throughout the interview, but not so much that you creep them out. Some teams will make notes while they listen to your questions.  Don’t worry, just keep talking and look for opportunities to connect visually.  Also, sit up straight, but relax your shoulders.  Don’t touch your face.  This might make you seem nervous or as if you are hiding something.

Let me tell you about “Diane Tooleve”. She had done her homework, answered the questions thoroughly, and even bragged a bit.  But there was something that just didn’t feel comfortable to the team.  In the team’s discussion after her interview it was noted that she looked at her watch at least two or three times.  Was she just keeping track of the time for good management or was she concerned about the time?  That wasn’t clear.   She could have taken her watch off and placed it in front of her in order to keep an eye on how much time she was using for each question and to manage that time efficiently.   It was also noted that she often scratched her nose or rubbed her chin.  Several of the interviewers felt uncomfortable or distracted by that.  But what bothered the team the most was that Diane slouched in her chair and didn’t seem very enthusiastic about her career choice.  Her answers were complete, but lacked the passion and uniqueness that others had given.  Diane was placed on the bottom of the team’s list.

Smile: Just because you have done your homework, you’ve exuded confidence, shared all your expertise, hold a Masters Degree, and have 15 years experience, that doesn’t make you the best candidate.  Most likely, the team is looking for a good fit personally as well. Remember to smile. People are more inclined to listen to you and want to know more about you if you are a positive person.  Also, if you are prepared and confident a smile is easier to share.  We all know how nerve racking an interview can be.  When you haven’t done your homework, and you’re not sure about your own abilities, you’re definitely going to up the stress level.  A stressful smile may look like a fake smile.  None of that will help you.

“I.V. League” came to an interview fully prepared to blow their socks off with his resume. He had been to several important colleges achieving his Bachelors and his Masters degrees as well as completing numerous classes to maintain his teaching certificate.  He had been in several schools over his 20+ year career, so he had been involved in many types of curricula.  On his own, he designed a program to help students improve their writing skills while participating in charitable situations.  The administrator was looking forward to meeting the man with the impressive portfolio.  When Mr. League entered the room he greeted everyone politely and took a seat.  As he answered the same questions that all the candidates had been asked, he never smiled.  His answers showed his knowledge, but he just didn’t fully connect with the interview team.  When the team later discussed his candidacy most were put off by his stoic manner.  The administrator was surprised that I.V. League was not one of the more popular contenders.   He had high hopes, but agreed with the other team members after the interview.   Mr. League was not asked to join the staff.

As of this posting, we have hired someone to fill the position that we were interviewing for. It took several weeks.  We looked for someone that was skilled, experienced, a life-long learner, enthusiastic, motivated, had done his/her homework, understood that race impacts our students 100%, and was confident and positive.  We had nearly 200 people that have applied for one spot.  When we met the candidate that showed us the most of what we look for, we placed her on the top of the list; and after being thoroughly vetted, we offered her the job.

To those of you still seeking a position: Good luck and be wise.

What Did You Learn In School Today?

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Do you know where your students’ learning is going? Do you know what you truly want them to learn each day?  What is the purpose of your lesson?  Let’s hope it’s not to just fill in a worksheet  or to simply complete the next lesson in the curriculum guide. Asking these types of questions, and considering your intent, is what many educators are wondering about these days.  It stems from the thought that we should be teaching with purpose and with that purpose, we should be able to set goals or targets for learning.  In doing so, we should teach with clearer intent and the students might learn with deeper understanding, and they may take better ownership of their learning.

Laurence Peter said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else.” How often do we start a lesson and end up talking about and/or teaching something different?  You know, when a student asks a question that takes the lesson to a whole new place.  Or when something in the lesson reminds you of something important and you veer off track.  Or maybe something happens as you walk around after initial instruction and you realize that your students need some re-teaching or redirection.  These “bird-walks” – as I’ve heard some referred them to – can be better that the original lesson; and they can also detract from the needs of the students.

When we teach with intent to reach a target, our work is more focused and precise. We keep our eyes on the goal and move in.  When students know what this target is, research says that they will have a better chance of meeting it.

In my school district we call these Learning Targets.  They are:

  • derived from and based on the grade level standards
  • linked clearly to the previous lesson
  • building on other targets
  • enhancing learning
  • based on students’ learning needs – academic, background, experiences, culture, language, etc.
  • communicated through verbal and visual strategies

Lrng Target

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Learning-Target-Cheat-Sheet-2678956

The students should be able to understand how the lesson builds on or is related to other lessons. They should also be able to answer the questions, “What are you learning today?”  Using the learning target they should be able to explain their learning and not just tell the questioner what they are doing?  For instance, instead of answering with, “We’re reading this text and answering the questions.” They could answer with, “We’re learning how to find things in the text that are new and surprising to us.”

Everyone in the classroom or small group should understand and aim for the same target. It’s the Target that provides clear direction.

When planning our next lesson and writing a good learning target, we might ask ourselves some guiding questions.

  • What did the students learn yesterday?
  • How well did they learn it?
  • Where are they confused?
  • What can they use meaningfully?
  • Where is their learning heading in upcoming lessons?

After answering these questions, you should have a better understanding of where your students’ learning is going. Then you can plan a more purposeful lesson; remembering that a lesson should never ask students to just do more of the same. When you plan your lesson, the task should fit the target perfectly and make the target crystal clear.  If the students aren’t required to do a task that deepens their understanding during the lesson, their responses tend to be vague when asked, “What are you learning today?”

After teaching the lesson, reflect on the following:

  • Did my students deepen their understanding of the essential content and skills?
  • What evidence do I have that supports my conclusion about what the students knew or where able to do?
  • As a result of today’s lesson, what do I want them to learn and be able to do?
  • Why is it important that they achieve this new learning?
  • What will they be able to do as a result of having gained this learning?

How the students’ answer should be equivalent to the Learning Target. When students use the learning targets it helps them take ownership of their learning.  This helps them understand the importance of why they are learning it.  Your teaching will have demonstrated its purpose and your work will be more focused.

Interventions, Interventions, Interventions!

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13076533_978056375618299_1305435581257619817_n Interventions, interventions, interventions!  “Joey can’t read at grade level.  Mary still doesn’t understand how to borrow.  Allen struggles with writing a coherent sentence.  Pavi still speaks in broken English.  I can’t read Mike’s handwriting.  We need to get them some help!”  Those comments are very likely included in conversations that teachers are having all across our country.  By the beginning of winter most teachers have a grasp on the most intensive needs of their students.  The right teachers are quickly looking for specific interventions to help the child make growth and/or meet the standards.  In doing so, they are talking to colleagues; intent on finding the right intercession.

In some of our country’s schools the number of interventions needed is very high.  In others; not so much.  I worked in a Title One school that had more than one-third of its student population qualifying as English Language Learners (ELL/ESL), and more than 70% qualifying for free or reduced lunches.  The number of students that qualified for special education services was relatively high as well. We were considered a high needs school, and high needs we had.

I had students receiving special help with place value, addition and subtraction strategies, decoding, vocabulary, writing, basic comprehension, fluency, basic facts, and learning to speak English properly…just to name a few.  The students generally met with a certificated interventionist, special education teacher, or an instructional assistant for 30-60 minutes a day.  We called this a “pull out” program since the kids were being pulled out of my general education classroom to receive this help.  I was also working with individuals and small groups within my classroom.  Gone are the days of whole class instruction for the majority of the day.  My students did not need to have qualified for special education services to get extra help.

But a scheduling issue one day brought me to actually ask myself, “At what point is there too many interventions?”  At that time, to meet the needs of my students I had 6 different intervention times in my day for the various children, not to mention after school interventions.  Some of my students were out of my room more than they were in my room.  There were a few boys that were receiving 3 or 4 interventions each day.  How could I possible teach them when they were gone so much?  I changed my schedule so many times just to accommodate these other groups.  It can be frustrating and confusing.  UGH!

But wait…We do all this because it is what is best for these children. If they didn’t need the extra help they wouldn’t be going at all.  When a child is in 4th grade and is still reading at a second grade level; he/she needs help.  When a ten year old can’t add or subtract properly; he/she needs help.  After reading several papers of a student and the teacher still doesn’t understand his/her thinking; he/she needs help.  If a student is so new to the country that he/she struggles to tell you what he/she is thinking or needs, then he/she needs help.  When a child’s dysgraphia causes such difficulty in writing; he/she needs help.10277069_309984182489522_511020068634375821_n

So,” interventions, interventions, interventions” was written in my schedule…daily.  I’m grateful that I had all the interventions available.   I know that many schools didn’t, and still don’t, have enough interventionists to support the needs of those students, and that the classroom teacher has to provide the intervention within the day as well as providing enrichment to those that need to be challenged.  We call that “differentiation”.

I continued to do everything that I could to help each of my students learn and improve everyday, even if that meant that I changed my schedule again and that they work with many instructors.  I’m not so arrogant to think that I can do it all, nor that my schedule takes priority.  I have to intervene to do what is right for my students.

I’m glad that we had the support that the students needed, because it also supported me.  If I had to plan and teach the numerous levels of instruction that was called for, I’d simply not have enough hours within the school day.  I know many others that feel this way now.

So, how can we meet the needs if we don’t have the interventions available? Here are some ideas:

  • Connect with local businesses or churches to enlist mentors and volunteers (providing they pass your state’s background check)
  • Start a Watch D.O.G. Program in your school. (Dads of Great Students) http://www.fathers.com/watchdogs/
  • Partner with another teacher to team teach or share students in by grouping students from both classes so that you are responsible for some levels of need and the other teacher is responsible for the remaining levels of need.
  • Collaborate with other teachers about interventions strategies.
  • Look into programs that your school might qualify that will provide interventions outside of school.   Here’s one: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/21stcclc/index.html
  • Check your local library to see if they provide homework help after school hours.

Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed and frustrated by the number of interventions needed, the number of pull-outs, or the lack of staff to manage the needs. There are multiple ways we can help our students.  I’d love to hear how you and your school are managing the needs for interventions where you work.

Self Directed Learning

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It’s a typical day in an elementary classroom. The students are working on various science reports.   All seems well until you hear, “Someone stole my pencil!”, “Teacher, do you have some tape I can use?”, “My paper needs holes punched in it.” “How do you spell mayonnaise?” And even “Can I go to the bathroom?”  The teacher stops her work and looks up with an exhausted look on her face.  So many children need something all at once.  What’s a teacher to do?  She attempts to manage the activity one student at a time.

In the next classroom you see similar students also working on a science project. You watch for several minutes, sure that you will eventually see the same scenario play out for your dismay (or amusement).  One student’s pencil lead breaks and another tears her paper while taking it out of her notebook.  “Here we go.” you think.  But instead, there is no chaos.  The students simply get up and take care of their own problems.  The student with the broken pencil quietly gets up, walks over to a nearby table, places the pencil in a small tray, and trades it for a freshly sharpened one.  The student with the torn paper also gets up quietly and retrieves a piece of tape from the same table.  But wait, there’s another child at the table looking on the computer at a website about bugs.  The first two children quickly and quietly walk back to their desks without interrupting any of the learning.  The teacher notices the movement, and when she looks up from her work with another student, she has a smile on her face.  Several children needed something all at once here as well, but the difference was that the second teacher’s students had been trained very early in the year how to manage themselves and to self-direct their learning and needs.

Students work on various activities with independence.

Students work on various activities with independence.

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